The Game Plan by Jesse Atkinson

The Game Plan: Dropping Science: Very Important Advice For Upcoming Artists & Producers Written by Jesse Atkinson, CEO of Urban Thres...

The Game Plan: Dropping Science: Very Important Advice For Upcoming Artists & Producers

Written by Jesse Atkinson, CEO of Urban Threshold Inc. and Founder of The A&R Power Summit and The Underground Music Awards and The Urban Music Explosion

Music requires a sound strategy no matter what genre you're in. Whether you want to be a classical performer, a jazz musician, a Hip-hop artist, or any other type of performer, you must gain an understanding of the skills needed to establish a long-term career on your own terms.


The first aspect of any journey into the music business is to actually create a business. Get a business certificate, S-Corp or LLC. Legalize your music company. Get your Tax ID number and open up a small business account at a bank. Keep your business funds separate from your personal funds.

Get a trademark for your stage name.

Copyright Law is the cornerstone and foundation for the entire music industry.

The "Poor Man's" Copyright is a myth. Register your music the proper way with the U.S Copyright Office using either form PA or SR. Log on to www.Copyright.Gov

Join one of the performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC

Artists and producers, In this digital age it's imperative that you look into joining Sound Exchange (Http://

If you don't have a sense of direction, you will not make it in the music business.

To truly attain wealth one must develop a plan to "ATTRACT MONEY" and not "PURSUE MONEY" and there is a difference in the two.

Define your career trajectory and outline the steps to get there.

Thousands of indie artists are making money from their music. And so can you.

The Internet has greatly leveled the playing field for indie artists. Forget about pleasing Music exec's and focus on building with the fans.

Verbalize and write down your goals, harness your innate creativity and activate the power of your subconscious mind.

Create a plan and set goals as to what you need to accomplish weekly, monthly and yearly. Be progressive, reach bench marks and keep at it.

Bigger Battles are won as a result of smaller victories. An effective game plan includes a combination of short term & long term strategies.

If your business idea is one that requires some capital to launch or grow, then any investor or bank will request to see your business plan.

Your business Plan is your road map to success. Every aspiring indie label or production company should have one.

The features of a Music Business Plan include: Mission, Goals, Target Market, Marketing Strategy, Revenue Streams, competition assessment, Break Even Analysis, Expected Sales & Management Team

A business plan is not a one-time-only endeavor. It serves as guide and a gauge. But you must tweak your business plans on a quarterly basis.

Every artist or producer should have a "Mission Statement." A well defined "Mission Statement" focuses your energy & clarifies your purpose.

Being an artist or producer is a "business" just like any other, and it should never be treated as anything less.

Would you open a store without any investment capital? So, what makes being an indie label or production company any different?

Every hustler knows that it "takes money to make money." So stop asking for hand outs. If you believe in yourself, then invest in yourself.

Forget about impressing Major Labels. Focus more on operating an efficient indie label or production company with quality releases and a healthy revenue stream.

As an independent artist, If you can sell 10,000 records per year and tour on your own, then you really don't need to be signed to a major label.

Operate your indie label or production company as if it's your livelihood. Build a loyal fan base. Account for funds coming in and going out and look at a major label as an exit strategy.

The key to creating a genuine "Buzz" starts with having a great product. Without that everything else is moot.

Nowadays an artist or producer has to be like a politician. You have to have a platform and an agenda. And you must get out there on the campaign trail..

Do your due diligence, study the pros and cons and evaluate the R.O.I (Return On Investment).

Get your merchandise together to brand yourself like T-Shirts with your name or logo on them.

Sadly, most unsigned artists spend more money on their outfits and accessories than they do on their music careers.

The problem is that many indie artists don't know how to market themselves correctly. And that's why they need to hire marketing consultants.

Sometimes you need somebody who can analyze your project from the outside looking in and help you improve on what you're lacking or missing.

Even major corporations such as Apple, Exxon, Facebook etc hire consultants and advisors to help mold and grow their businesses.

In addition, It's wise to invest in attending a good seminar. Even major companies send their employees to seminars to network and gain knowledge.

Major corporations like Google, Apple, Facebook etc. spend money to send their employees to educational seminars to improve productivity.

And if you have your indie label or production company set up correctly, then you would know that attending a music educational seminar can be a tax write off for your business.

R&D: Research & Development is essential for the continued growth of any company.

In everything, organization is the key. The more organized you are, the more easier it is to get plans executed.

Don't just promote to promote. Have specific over all goals, targets and bench marks that you wish to reach. Strategize your movements.

Make sure you have your passport because you never know when international opportunities will present themselves.

Think Global. Explore international markets for fan development.

Make sure you have a Twitter, Facebook and ReverbNation Account

Equally important, it's imperative that you get professional high resolution photos completed for media positioning, press and publicity.

Your Network is Your Net worth!

Try to build relationships with people outside of the music industry like in the fields of film, fashion, finance or video game production.

The key element about networking is the "Follow Up." That's where most people make mistakes by being either too aggressive or passive. Try to be polite but assertive and highlight your strong points.

Stay away from the pessimists who say that Rap Music is not selling. At one point people wrote off Country music but look where it is now. Music genre sales fluctuate and go in cycles. Rap music just needs a fresh jolt of innovative and original new stars to put it back on the right path.

Moreover, even if you're in the Entertainment Business you should still study Wall Street to see how Money, Investments & venture capital operate.

Instead of reading a lot of these music blogs all of the time, I would advise aspiring music moguls to read magazines like "Black Enterprise" or "Forbes".


If you're running an Indie record label or production company and you don't have a marketing plan or budget, then you're playing yourself.

Even Funeral Homes Advertise. (Think About That For A Moment.) So what makes you think that artists and producers shouldn't have a marketing plan and budget .

Every successful company invests in Marketing and Promotion. FACT!!

The purpose of having a Marketing strategy is to enhance "the price of your commodity " in the market place.

Marketing is about engaging and connecting with your target base. Marketing involves building trust. Promotion is about Getting them to Act. An effective Marketing strategy incorporates a promotional agenda that taps into the various targeted revenue streams to generate a potential R.O.I

In order to be effective in selling your product or service you have to know the difference between marketing and promotion. Marketing is your over all strategy. Promotion involves the implementation of selling points to be executed to fulfill your strategy.

Promotional implementation is a business marketing strategy designed to stimulate a customer to take action towards a buying decision.

Don't just randomly promote. Have a specific game plan with bench marks, time tables and goal evaluations. Know your break even point..

A Marketing Plan involves the following: Promotional tactics, Budget, Sale projections, Demographics, Geographics , Psychographics , Branding, Advertising Mediums ( TV, radio, Internet, print), Public Relations, Products, Timeline of execution of the campaign , USP( Unique Selling point), SWAT Analysis, Economic trends, roles of management, mission and goals.

Look to capture a certain percentage of the market place. Know your lane & target market & analyze your competition and make a better product.

No matter how good your music is, you must create and steadily increase consumer demand for it in order to continue to prosper.

Who is your target market? In order to market your music, it is imperative that you tailor your marketing and sales efforts to specifically reach the segment of the population that will most likely buy your music.

It is critical that you first determine or clearly identify your primary market. Your energies and funds then can be spent more efficiently.

Sometimes you can be more successful by catering to a niche market instead of trying to sell your brand to the masses.

You must have a firm grasp on what your music is about. And you must be able to define it clearly.

Being a generic Rock, Pop or Hip-Hop act won't cut it. Dig deeper and discover your unique identity.

You have to determine what is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition). What is it about you or your music that separates you from the competition?

Most unsigned artists just want to perform & nothing else. They give little thought to any other marketing strategy or career enhancement.

Many Producers don't get placements because they don't market themselves well, they don't network and they don't take meetings. They do a few beat battles, pass out a few beat CD's and call it a day.

Some artists spend hundreds of dollars on studio time to create an album, but will not allocate a dime to a marketing budget to promote it.

Performing in showcases only and sending out a bulletin on Twitter or Facebook twice a week about your album or mixtape is not an effective marketing plan

An effective Marketing strategy incorporates a promotional agenda that taps into the various targeted revenue streams to generate a potential Return On Investment.

A Music Marketing Plan includes: Press/Publicity, Radio Promo, Video Promo, E-Blast Implementation, Shows/Tours, Online Promo, Press Releases & Street Team/Club Promo

Merchandising is an essential element to any successful marketing plan. The biggest mistake an artist could make after playing a great show is to have nothing of any interest for sale immediately afterwards.

In order to create hype around your release develop a contest. Do give aways. Interact with your fans and make them part of the experience.

"Gimmicks" can work for a short term. But don't revolve your entire marketing approach around a gimmick..

It's imperative for indie artists to compile a comprehensive email database of fans, supporters & affiliates for E-blast marketing purposes.

Indie Artists should send out a bi-weekly Newsletter informing their fans of new releases, upcoming shows, merchandise for sale & give aways.

Don't Freestyle Your Marketing Efforts! Have a specific strategy and plan of attack

"Marketing With A Mission" Is The Key to A Successful Campaign.


The "music business" has been transformed into a "Multimedia & Branding business" where the music, the songs & artists are the drivers.

You're in the business of "YOU". You're a brand & how you manage your brand is important. How's your customer service? Your marketing? etc.

Nowadays it's no longer just about selling CD's; It's about brand development & selling "Content" & conveying the mission of your movement.

Get the price of your commodity up by matching your band with other top level brands in the marketplace. Enhance your visibility and presence.

As an indie artist or producer, one of the best ways to expand your brand is to partner with a Non-Profit organization for a worthy cause.

Strategic Branding Plus Positioning Equals Increased Sales & Greater Market Share! An effective marketing plan gives you a competitive edge.

The value of a brand resides, for the audience, in the hope that the product or service will deliver what it promises.

The term "Goodwill" reflects the "prudent value" of a label or firm beyond its assets, such as the reputation it enjoys with its clients or fans. Are you "Goodwill Hunting?"

Your brand is what your company stands for & what it's known for. If you can't define your brand, your customers won't be able to either.

The key to building a music brand revolves around the fact that as an artist you have to be able to convey your story and the philosophy behind your music. Let your fans take a journey into your world.

Your fans must either want to be you or believe you. You must know your target market & your music has to resonate with them.


Cinematic, Motivational, Memorable, Exciting, Different & Passionate. Those are the elements of a classic album.

Hit songs are well structured and well crafted. They have great melody, rhythm, production and lyrics. Additionally, hit songs have a chorus or hook that resonates with the listener.

Hit songs have an inevitability about them and they can change the atmosphere of a room instantly. Moreover, a Hit song can take you to the next level with in 30 seconds of hearing the intro.

"You know a song is a hit if it makes an impact in The Crib, The Car and in The Club.. If if translates well in those three environments, then it's a hit. That's the '3 C' rule." - Quayshaun Carter, President of Que Records/EM

Great song writers write songs that fuel desire, inspire hope, break hearts, unite people or just make you want to dance.

The Music Industry is not dead, people just want to hear good music instead of the one dimensional form of music that they're being force fed.

Some artists forgot what it was like to be a "fan" of the music and it shows in the stagnancy of their songs..

Sadly, most unsigned artists mold their approaches to making music based on what they hear on the radio or what they perceive major labels wanting.

Make music from your heart! Stop trying to impress a major label and stop trying to mimic what you hear on the radio. Keep it authentic!

Music is an "art" & when you treat it strictly as a business you get "Fast Food" or shall we say "Fast Music" with little substance.

Some artists should focus on creating a niche market for their music, instead of trying to sound like everyone else they hear on the radio.

Don't just rhyme over beats. Add some flavor and character to your delivery. Some artists get lost in the track or try to over power it. Blend and become one with the sound. Your voice should be the second instrument on the song.

Commercial "Radio Songs" are usually predictable, non-adventurous and formulaic.

The key is to make an original song that can COMPETE with songs on the radio but not sound exactly like the songs on the radio.

Nowadays, It's important that artists make music that can cross regional boundaries. Your music should translate above & beyond your hood.

There is no time limit on the creative process. Don't try to "Rush A Hit". Take your time and make sure the song meets certain musical standards.

Fiction is defined as an imaginative creation or pretense not based on reality. It appears that 75% of rappers nowadays are fictional writers.

It's wise to get critical feedback about your music from people outside of your circle.

All the fancy, eye catching packaging and branding in the world can't camouflage an album that lacks originality, imagination or soul.

Indie artists often get tired of a song once they make a new one. But if everyone thinks that your old song is a hit, then keep promoting it.

If you have a hot song that's been in the market place for only 4 weeks, don't do a remix of the song after the 5th week. You'll only confuse people. Stay consistent.

Just because you're on the underground does not mean that you should put less effort into mixing and mastering your songs.

A good engineer can take your music to a new plateau and give you a crisp sound. He or She has the ability to create, scrutinize, critique, modify, shape and control the details & sound quality of your music.

Often times a "great" song can lose its quality and explosiveness due to a poor mix and mastering.. So choose your engineer wisely.

And lastly, pay Producers what they are worth. They have a business just like you.


Presently the Mixtape market is very over saturated. There are too many mixtape projects being released freely into the marketplace without any defined purpose or mission. The end result is nothing but clutter!

CLUTTER MUSIC equals Sub par, mediocre, throw away music. And this is what most rappers are putting on their mixtapes.

‎"Clutter music" clogs up the market place and brings down the intrinsic and monetary value of other quality music in it's lane.

The Sad thing is that most indie rappers have no idea why they're giving away their music for free. They are just following everyone else. SMH.

The Free Music Mindset causes some artists to slack when they go in the booth, because subconsciously they know that the music will be just given away "Freely". So they don't give it their all.

There are several important factors you must consider before releasing a mixtape.

Firstly, make sure the mixtape is recorded properly, mixed down correctly and sounds crisp.

Equally important, make sure your mixtape content, cover and concept are unique to stand apart from the competition. You must be able to define the mission and philosophy behind your Mixtape.

Strive to make a "Classic" mixtape not a "Clutter" mixtape. Don't just make "clutter" music that you give away for free to clutter the marketplace. Make "Classic" music with passion and feeling that music afficianados can appreciate.

If you're going to do a remix of a popular song or rhyme over a well know industry instrumental, then make sure that your version is just as good or even better than the original.

It defeats the purpose to pay thousands of dollars for a feature and the featured artist out shines you on your own song. Bring Your "A" Game!

Don't Get Caught up in the "Mixtape Madness." Don't release your 3rd free mixtape in 3 months if you haven't properly promoted the first two.

Most indie Hip Hop artists release a mixtape without even promoting it. Some rappers spend thousands of dollars to get a "big name" DJ to host their mixtape and then spend zero dollars marketing it.

And If your only MARKETING strategy is sending out tweets on Twitter and posts on Facebook every hour about your mixtape, then you've already lost.

Develop a plan to make people excited about downloading it. Create Hype about your mixtape before releasing it. Send out press releases, create a contest. do giveaways, get reviews on it, do radio interviews, etc. Make it an extravaganza.

Moreover Promote your Mixtape by investing in a marketing strategy that includes Online Promo, PR/Publicity, E-Blasts, Video Promo, Radio interviews, Press Releases,
Street Team/Club Promo.

Before dropping a mixtape, release a single and develop it virally. Inform the public that this is the 1st single from the upcoming mixtape. A week or two before releasing your mixtape, do a couple of mixtape release parties and invite the press, fans and DJ's. Perform a couple of songs from it.

In addition, to promote the mixtape, use a small budget to sponsor local events. Advertise with your local internet radio shows that support your music.

And don't just spend money on a Mixtape Marketing company. Work the project yourself as well. Make your fans part of the experience!

Put a snippet of a bonus single on your free mixtape and then sell that bonus single in its entirety on Itunes. Additionally, make a music video of the bonus single, put it on Youtube and advertise that it's a bonus single from your mixtape.

Also try to Do something different with your mixtape like tie it in to your favorite charity whereby you can get awareness for the charity as well.

If you're going to pay a so called big name DJ to host your mixtape, then try to have an agreement which stipulates that the DJ has to promote the project as well.

Now that your free mixtape has been downloaded "5000" or more times, what's next? That's what you should be asking yourself. (Movement Calculations)

The purpose of giving away free music is to advertise your brand for opportunities that make money like paid live shows, endorsements, merchandise sales etc.

If you don't have a follow up plan to generate money from your "Free Mixtape", then you're just wasting your time. Monetize your Movement!

In fact, forget about putting out (3) three mediocre FREE mixtapes in a row and concentrate on creating (1) one CLASSIC ALBUM that you can market and sell.

The little bit of advice I just gave on "Mixtapes" is priceless! I hope it helps so that we can get rid of some of this clutter of free Mixtapes that are put into the marketplace without any Rhyme or Reason.


Just because you can loop up a beat doesn't make you a producer.

What is the difference between a Beat Maker and a Producer? A beat maker just makes tracks but a producer creates, shapes and molds the music into his/her vision and coaches and guides the artist.

A Beat maker is not concerned with who raps over his beats. A Producer takes pride in working with artists who are just as talented as he is.

Back in the days, when music had more feeling, music producers could play instruments and read music. But now they just operate software.

With the advent of technology in the music industry, there is a lost art of true musicianship and feeling for the music.

Don't get sucked into the "Technology" Black hole. If you're a beat maker or producer, then learn to play at least one instrument. Become a True Musician.

"Now more than ever, it is important that producers be musically inclined (be able to play at least one musical instrument professionally)" - Quincy Jones

I recently went to a producer conference and asked many upcoming producers what was their Unique Selling Proposition? They had no clue.

At the same recent producer event, I asked some of the upcoming producers what are the multiple revenue streams in the music biz. And again they had no clue.

Most upcoming producers just go to beat battles and conferences and that's it. They need to develop a sound marketing and business plan.

Many upcoming producers always say that they Just need the right person to hear their music, and then they'll be successful. That is the wrong approach. Never put your "Power" or destiny in the hands of others.

Moreover, doing beat battle after beat battle is not an effective way to get placements for your music. Think outside of the box.

Be progressive. Get informed! Know the industry that you're in. Study the leading indicators, analyze the growth areas and tap into sectors of innovation.

The Best Producers are the ones with the greatest imaginations.

Be open minded and versatile with your production.
But, Try to develop a signature sound.
Always make tracks with an MC in mind. Ask yourself, "Does this sound like Busta joint or a Nas joint?" That’s the best way to build up your catalogue.
Go to as many Music Conferences & Seminars as you can to build connections.
Reach out to Artists or A&R's on Twitter and ask them for an email where you can send them tracks.

Find a few dedicated and hardworking dope upcoming MC's and Singers and produce for them.

Make Youtube Videos showing yourself producing tracks.
Promote your brand and invest in a marketing strategy that includes Online Promo, PR/Publicity, E-Blasts, Video Promo, Radio interviews, Press Releases, Street Team/Club Promo.
Don't just think about working with artists. Also look into the prospects of developing musical scores for independent films.

Enter Beat Battles and contests but to a controlled degree.

Research and understand the importance of music licensing.
Create your own website and put tracks online for the world to hear.
Do Contests where you give away some tracks for free.
Do Remixes of popular songs and Mashups.
Lease Beats to upcoming artists ranging from $50 to $300 per lease.
Create a mixtape series featuring upcoming artists rapping or singing over your tracks.

It's a good idea to get your hands on a "Who's Looking" list or search the labels to see which artists' projects are coming out.

Set a goal as to how many beats you wish to sell or lease per month. Maintain accurate accounting and keep track of funds coming in and going out. Develop a plan and a mission for your production company.

Build relationships with people outside of the music industry like in the fields of film, fashion, finance or video game production.

Reach out to the music supervisors of MTV, BET and VH1 and send them beats.
Reach out to the music supervisors of ESPN or other sports networks and send them tracks.

Study and understand the importance of Publishing and how it affects you as a producer.

Start a publishing company and join a performance rights organization like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.

If you're trying to get your music placed in Film or Tv, then learn what a Synchronization License is and what a Master License is. (I would tell you what they are, but I want you to do the research)

Take as many A&R meetings as you can to shop your tracks.

Put together a Bi-weekly Newsletter about your production.

Shout out to all of the true song writers, musicians, producers and composers out there. You make our world a better place. Salute!


Most aspiring artists don't fully understand the dynamics of Commercial radio and they often
wonder why there aren't more songs from independent artists played on their favorite
radio station.

It's imperative that you understand that the primary mission of Commercial Radio is to sell "commercials" and not to break new artists. It's goal is to build an audience and draw attention to those 30 second Ad slots.

Additionally, the DJs on the commercial radio level have no say at all as to what songs go into rotation. They spin songs according to a given playlist set by the station's Music Director or Program Director.

Commercial radio stations derive their primary income from advertising and sponsorships. So they need to prove to potential advertisers and sponsors that the station has a large listenership. Accordingly, the station will play music that it feels will both draw and hold the largest audience.

Hence, if you are trying to get airplay or rotation on a commercial radio station, then you should concentrate your pitch on angles that point out your public popularity-- the size of your mailing list, the number of people who come to your shows, the number of shows you play in the target market per month, the response from local press, noteworthy career developments, etc.

If you have the budget, you can duplicate the marketing practices of larger labels to get your songs in rotation.

In order to get started, you will need to enlist the services of a well connected and competent radio promoter who has relationships with key Program Directors on the commercial radio level. Before enlisting a Radio Promoter, it's very important that you check his/her references.

Obtaining a radio “add” means getting a song added to a station's playlist. Once a song is in the top percentage of a playlist, it will reach the radio charts. Obtaining a position on the charts indicates that your record is achieving excellent exposure. A strong chart position can be used as leverage to obtain a good review in the press, secure a good tour, convince other radio stations to follow suit and add your record, etc

There are several categories of rotations at the commercial radio level:
Heavy: song is in the top third of the playlist
Medium: song is in the middle of the playlist
Light: song is at the bottom of the playlist
Review: the MD and DJs have not yet decided whether to add the song
Recurrent: song is played every now and then, usually at the DJ's discretion
Dropped: song has been removed from rotation

Equally important, It is wise to do market research on your song first before investing thousands of dollars in to a national radio campaign.

Additionally, please note that "Commercial Radio promotion" should be the second phase for an artist to implement. Develop the song virally and create a word of mouth buzz first. Work it on the street level (grass roots marketing) and make sure a campaign is under way to get the song spun in the clubs as well.

Focus your efforts on the college or specialty/mix-show radio format first and then expand to a commercial radio campaign.

A company called BDS (Broadcast Data Services) and a company called Mediabase compile commercial radio charts from a national sample of airplay. The best way to keep tabs on these commercial charts is by regularly checking out Billboard , a weekly music-industry trade magazine.

Make sure your song is registered with Mediabase or BDS before implementing a radio campaign. And make sure it's available for sale online. Also make sure that you are registered with one of the performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC to collect royalties from airplay and performances.

Once your song is on the radio then a second campaign must be implemented to get your fans to call the radio hotlines to request the song.

Make sure the song has "Hit" potential and it fits the commercial radio format and can compete with songs already in rotation.

Make sure the song has emotion or feeling and a great melody. Keep the hooks simple but impactful. And the production should be top notch.

The desired end result of your radio and club campaign should be digital sales of the single, paid performances, etc. (Monetize Your Movement!)

Lastly if you're going to spend thousands of dollars for a radio campaign, don't do it to try to impress a major label. Implement a radio campaign to expand awareness for you song, your indie label and your brand.


Indie Artists should try renting out a venue, buying event insurance, hiring security, printing up flyers, marketing the event, inviting out press and selling tickets to their own shows. And if they can't do that, then it makes sense that they invest to perform in top quality and well respected promoter produced showcases.

Showcasing gives you the opportunity to create a personal bond with your followers and it gives you the visibility to expand your business.

Indie Artists should try renting out a venue, buying event insurance, hiring security, printing up flyers, marketing the event, inviting out press and selling tickets to their own shows. And if they can't do that, then it's best that they invest and pay to be in top quality promoter produced showcases.

Showcase Necessities: Always bring a back Up Performance CD, business cards, flyers or promo material & an appointed person to collect emails or sell merchandise.

Four Basic tips for improving your stage show: Make a memorable entrance, connect with the crowd, engage the crowd & make a memorable exit.

Whether your audience is 50 or 5000. Go hard or go home! Never slack when you hit the stage.

Showing up fashionably late to a showcase only makes you look bad and it causes people to question your level of professionalism.

It's important that you select a hype man who complements your style and who adds value to your performance.

In most cases, bringing 50 dudes on stage with you while you perform, does little to enhance the value of your live show.

All great performers rehearse and practice. If you want to perfect your stage show, it is imperative that you take time out to rehearse.

In case of technical difficulties during your set, do not become alarmed and do not berate the DJ. Use the opportunity to promote your website, album or mixtape. Also utilize the time to perform a brief freestyle or acapella until the technical problem is fixed.

Holding the microphone correctly is essential, especially for rap artists. Never cover or hold the top of the mic when performing because it will cause your vocals to sound muddled and distorted.

Keep your performace sets to a minimum. There's nothing worst for an audience than hearing 6 songs in a row from an indie artist they've never heard of.

Be mindful of who you surround yourself with, because often times it's the non talented person in the crew who causes the most trouble at an event.

Some times your "crew" can do more damage to your music career than help it by being very unprofessional at events and starting fights.

Always stay positive at a showcase and try to network with as many people as you can.


Now more than ever a visual presentation is important for the growth and survival of a business and for the development of a music artist.

Making a music video depicting you standing in front of a luxury car with fifty dudes behind you and the projects as a back drop is becoming cliche' and played out.

Recently, I saw a music video for an R&B/Rap love song by an unsigned artist and it had dudes mean mugging the camera holding Pitbulls..SMH. It just doesn't make sense!

Your music video should be imaginative & creative; it should capture the essence of your song.

Moreover, Indie artists should think about producing their own small films or long version videos and add their music as the score.


The major labels need to start investing in Artist Development again and look to groom long term stars instead of short term fads.

But unfortunately, the Major labels no longer invest in "Artist Development". They are more interested in signing pre packaged artists or "microwavable" superstars that they can just heat up.

Implementing an "Artist Development" program makes the difference between an artist having longevity in the music business or just being a "one hit wonder."

Artist development involves shaping and molding an artist into a star. It involves helping the artist create a quality sound that is commercially viable.

Stages of Artist Development include: training with press relations, enhancing the artist's Stage presence, fashion and image. It also includes brand formation and star quotient implementation.

Members of the artist deveolpment team include the brand manager, vocal coach, Stylist, PR specialist, Graphic Artist, photographer, videographer and interview coach.

In the music business image creation and maintenance is important. Hence, It's wise that indie artists invest in a good Stylist, Graphic Artist, photographer and videographer.

The artist development team works together under the guidance of the brand manager to develop a strategy to enhance the price of the artist's "commodity" and magnify the intrinsic value of the artist's art in the marketplace.

One of the goals of the Artist Development team is to harness the artist's vocals, musicianship and/or songwriting skills.

Moreover the artist development staff makes sure that the artist maintains exceptional promotion materials, including photographs, press releases and artwork.

In conclusion, having no artist development is like making a movie with out a director. The artist development team brings out the best in an artist.


If you're running an indie record label or production company and you can't account for your income, expenses, assets and liabilities, then you're playing yourself.

Moreover, you have to consider that with all the free mixtapes you're part of and the free music you give out, somebody's getting paid off of it, it's just not you. (Think About it)

What is the projected revenue for your indie label or production company this year? This is what you should be asking yourself. Then formulate a plan to get there.

A game plan or strategic plan can not be implemented without an adequate financial budget behind it.

If you can't find a way to convert your huge buzz into a revenue stream, then you're just a well known indie artist with diminished returns.

Monetize your thoughts and ideas. Convert your concepts into cash flow.

The key is to convert your artistic value into market value and generate returns.

It is very important that every artist and producer know and learn the multiple revenue streams in the music business. Some of the Music Biz Revenue Streams include: CD Sales, Digital Download Sales, Merchandising, Tour Income, Licensing Revenue, Publishing income, Ringtone Revenue, Endorsement Deals and Sponsorship Revenue.

You can finance your indie label or production company in a myriad of ways. Sources of business funding include: Borrowing from your 401K, Getting investments from angel investors like friends & family, taking out a second mortgage on your house, etc. Additionally, try taking out a small business loan or personal loan at your bank. You can also have fund raisers, raffles or benefit concerts to finance a venture or project.

Look into getting a line of credit for your indie label or production company. Use the leverage of your assets to finance expansion and growth.

Equally important, have an executive summary or a full business plan ready to present to prospective investors. Gain their trust and demonstrate to them what their potential R.O.I (Return On investment) could be.

Your Business plan should show how you will do the following: 1) Grow the business 2) Achieve Profitability 3) Repay any loans and 4) Reward any investors

Most investors will want a very specific project to finance like an album, studio construction or a tour.

Also please Note that Most investors don't like making out a check to an individual. They prefer to make a check payable to a company.

Set your budget and sales quota for the month. Tap into other revenue streams such as merchandising, Shows, ringtones , endorsements, licensing etc

A label owner or production company owner should know the valuation of his/her company. What is its value and net worth..etc

Every album release should have a Marketing strategy, Promotion implementation, Breakeven Analysis, ROI Assessment, weekly & monthly sales projections.

Keep accurate book keeping and make sure you pay the taxes on earnings generated from your music endeavors.

Assets - Liabilities = Equity . That's basic accounting and most upcoming entertainment companies don't focus on basic accounting.

Get Quickbooks for basic accounting for your company. You can record new clients, sales info, expenses and Keep track of money coming in and going out.


TEAM = (T)ogether (E)veryone (A)chieves (M)ore


A great individual effort can win a game, but it takes a dedicated team to win championships.

Create a team. Give people titles like Director of Marketing, Operations Manager, Street Team Coordinator, etc. Have conference calls once a week to go over goals and execute plans. Also develop an intern staff.

Incorporate interns as part of your staff for street team and online marketing purposes.

Try to surround yourself with like minded, goal oriented individuals who see your vision and who genuinely want to see you succeed.

Often times you will find a "Judas" in every camp. Beware of those individuals and try to root them out early if you can.

People always find ways to jump on the band wagon when success seems imminent, but it's the ones who were there from the beginning helping out who truly count.

It's important to encourage your team members to shine and let them know how important they are in the overall scheme of things.

It's wise to develop an operations manual (rules, regulations and by-laws) for your team. It puts everyone on the same page and holds individuals accountable.

Three very crucial members of your team include your Manager, entertainment lawyer and accountant.


If you approached your indie label or production company like it's the only means for you to pay your rent, you'll find innovative ways to sell your music.

If you're going to give your music away for free, at least have some other content or merchandise that's part of your brand that can be sold.

In music, if everyone is going in one direction, sometimes it's wise to go in the opposite direction or attempt to create a whole new path.

Stay ahead of the curve & innovate. The music business is in the process of being reinvented with newer & more dynamic revenue streams.

Experts say that it's good to develop a routine to maximize your endeavors.. For instance, you should have a set time when you promote, answer emails, coordinate with customers, log your accounting books etc.

In every other industry, the customer comes first. It's imperative that you focus on customer service and give your fans what they want.

If you're networking in the same circles over & over again, then that's how far you will go. Think outside of your circumference.


Just because you're "Not asleep" doesn't mean that you're "Awake!"

If you have not received your Articles of Incorporation from your state, then you really are not a CEO.

Your music catalogue is an "Asset". Guard it and cherish it!

True Talent will always trump technology.

Any body can "Buy a Buzz", but "True Talent" can't be purchased or manufactured..

To truly develop as an artist or producer, you must study your craft. DON'T FREESTYLE YOUR CAREER!

The music business is a "relationship" business.

If everyone wants favors, then how can the MONEY circulate.

Learn to take the "Losses" with the "Wins". Winning is for the moment.. You can lose the battle but win the war. Have a long term strategy.

Learn how to "Lose" gracefully and study how to "Win" Humbly. But always strive to "Make History!"

Listing your achievements, credits and the people you've worked with is not "NAME DROPPING." It's part of your Resume.

Never burn a bridge over minor issues, because you never know when you may have to go back across it.

When your actions are dictated by your EGO, you will sometimes jump to conclusion, be overly emotional or say things without thinking.

A "healthy Ego" keeps things in perspective.. A "challenged Ego" breeds insinuations and insecurity.

You can be "determined" and "aggressive" while maintaining your professionalism and dignity.

In everything patience is key. Those who lack faith also lack patience.

Tune out the "Yes Men" around you and you'll get much further with your endeavors.

If you can't take constructive criticism, then you will never perfect your craft.

As a leader you must be able to take genuine criticism and you should always be open for helpful pointers for improvement.

Being broke is only temporary; being poor is a "state of mind."

Your goals/dreams are most alive when they show up in your daily routines.

Ideas, dreams etc that you write down and commit to paper are easier to commit to action.

Stagnancy leads to complacency and complacency leads to failure. You got to keep moving and keep working.

Artists, just because you give your music away for free, doesn't mean you should expect a producer to give you beats for free.

Don't wait for a music executive to tell you if you're in the "Game" or not. The Internet has leveled the playing field for indie artists. Thus, If you're making quality music and you're developing a fan base, then you're already in the "Game."

No matter how talented you are or how well connected you are, at the end of the day it all boils down to your work ethic.

You can't control what people think about you. Don't allow people's opinions of you define who you are.

Real hustlers and grinders avoid drama, not because they can't handle it, but because they don't have time for it.

A real man or woman has the fortitude and inner strength to walk away from an argument or minor altercation before it escalates into violence.

Support your underground radio shows. Advertise with them and promote them. For some of you that's the only airplay you will receive.

It doesn't make any sense bringing "50 people" to the Studio with you, especially if they are not going to contribute to the creative process. Leave the crew at home. You're there to work.

Observe situations from a bird's eye view instead of a worm's eye view. Analyze the bigger picture and weigh the benefits & consequences.

Everyone has an agenda, whether it is hidden, upfront, positive or negative. Remember that!

The Best Path To Failure is to try to please everyone.

People who Hold grudges often do more damage to themselves spiritually and mentally than to the person whom the grudge is intended for.

One of the most important skills you can learn is "conflict resolution."

Remember This! Your enemy is more likely to greet you with a smile and a compliment, rather than a frown and an insult. Take Note!

Never let anyone talk you into not believing in yourself.

Learning is "Revolutionary." The mind is the most powerful weapon. Use it wisely!

In the music Biz, before you can make "Demands" you have to be in "Demand."

If after 5 years you have not found a way to generate a profit from your Indie Label, even the IRS will tell you to declare it a hobby.

The music business is not "The Streets" or like "The Drug Game," so stop trying to treat it as such. Maintain a degree of professionalism

There are (3) kinds of people in this world; those who watch things happen, those who make things happen and those who wonder what happened?

Some people put so much emphasis on the "Power" of money to compensate for the "Bankruptcy" of their soul.

Some people equate "Self Worth" with "Networth" and their self esteem fluctuates with the balance of their bank accounts.

"Some people buy things that they don't need with money that they don't have to impress people who they don't like." - Dave Ramsey

Success is a "relative" term. What you may define as success may be viewed as mediocrity to someone else. So don't step on other people's dreams.

Too many people are trying to live up to other people's definition of "Success".

There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.

If you Make MONEY your "GOD" then it will plague you like the "DEVIL."

Too many people have "Champagne" tastes on a "Beer" budget. Learn to live within your means..

Sometimes being a "boss" means you're going to take a "loss." Be prepared and surround yourself with understandable and trustworthy people.

One of the worst things to have is a spouse or mate who does not "believe in you" and who does not "see your vision."

It should never be a choice between your dreams and your mate. And if your mate can't see your dreams, then that's really not your "Soul" mate after all.

Everyone you meet comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.

Sometimes we are the reflection of who we choose to be part of our circle. So if you keep attracting toxic people over and over again, then you may want to examine yourself.

What good is a distribution deal without a marketing budget and promotional strategy?

Most indie artists have been conditioned into giving their music away for free.. If the music is good and it's marketed right, then it will sell. Have faith in yourself and your product!!

There's a big difference between "Let's Do Business" and "Can You Do Me A Favor?" Sadly, some people confuse the two.

Some commercial radio DJ's and Mixtape DJ's are more interested in breaking your "Pockets" than Breaking your "Records". Take Note!

Leaders Make Plans And Innovate. Followers Make Excuses And Hesitate.

A true leader espouses humility and puts the best interests of his/her team first.

A True Leader creates more leaders.

The tongue is one of the most powerful of instruments. It can be used as a "Sword" to harm or a "Blanket" to comfort. So, Choose your words wisely.

Practice and take notes regarding press inquiries, because you don't want to make yourself look like a fool during a major interview.

Honesty, Integrity, Dignity, Respect, Humility & Goodwill are essential elements for sustained success.

A Single lie discovered is enough to create unwarranted doubt over every truth expressed.

The person who brings gossip to your doorstep is the same person who talks about you behind your back when you're not present.

Real MEN DON'T talk about what they HEARD. They talk about what they KNOW.

A lot of people always brag that they have "Haters." But, There's a big difference in being Hated on for your "success" and being Hated on for your
"Incompetence." And Some people confuse the two.

‎"Haters" never give credit where credit is due. They only give accolades & respect to their team. If you're that type of person, then examine yourself.

Usually when a hater talks, it's not rooted in FACTS. It's based on What they've heard or what they assume.

Some people who are living their "nightmare" try to hate on people who are living their "dream!"

What a Hater hates the most is HIMSELF.

Don't dim your "light" to make haters feel better.. Keep Shining

There's a difference between "judging" someone and "correcting" someone. And we all need some form of "correction" from time to time to keep us on the right path.

Sometimes the journey to success is a lonely road, because many of your associates often leave your side before you reach the top.

If you say you're going do something, just do it. You can easily find an excuse not to do something.

Remember These Three words: "Multiple Revenue Streams."

There is a big difference between ORIGINATORS and Duplicators.

The fans you develop outside of your circle are usually genuine fans.

Get to know "the rules" of places before you visit there. For instance certain NY attitudes will not suffice in the South and Midwest and Vice Versa.

Nowadays, Artists must be self motivated and entrepreneurial. If you're not excited about your music, then how do you expect any one else to be excited about it.

A man who is void of integrity is capable of doing anything. Take note!

(Leader) - one who influences, guides, or inspires others. (Follower) - One who imitates, mimics or copies others.. Which one are you?

Surrounding yourself with inspirational and creative people will raise the level of your artistic endeavors.

Half of the people who say that you won't make it, will be the first ones on line asking for a handout when you do. Take Note!

Be original. Elevate and inspire! Don't live in the shadows of someone else's legacy. Create your own path.

The key to gaining true wisdom is to admit to yourself that you don't know everything. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen.

Everybody's situation is not the same. So don't compare yourself to others. Set your goals, stay in your lane and operate at your own pace. Don't let other people define your success.

It takes years of grinding some times before you see your first big break. Perseverance is the key.

Don't let the grind consume you. Have a plan and take things one day at a time.

If you think big, then you'll get big. If you think small, then you'll stay small. Sometimes it's as simple as that.


What Hip Hop Should Be: HIP HOP = (H)igher (I)nfinite (P)ower (H)ealing (O)ur (P)eople

The underground is what keeps Hip Hop Alive. The underground is what gives Hip Hop it's vitality.

Hip Hop artists are in the unique position to influence others with their mere words alone. Now that's power!

There's a big difference in being an "Emcee" and being a "Rapper".

An Emcee embodies the heart of a rapper, but a rapper can never embody the soul of an Emcee.

For a lot of youth who don't have proper parenting, Hip Hop serves as a step parent, so to speak, molding & shaping the minds of tomorrow.

Behavioral scientists have concluded that music affects one's actions & thought patterns. It can affect the way one talks, dresses or reacts.

Sadly, many elements within Gangsta rap today draw parallels to the dehumanizing images portrayed in DW Griffith's "Birth of A Nation."

Hip Hop fans are tired of hearing rappers rap about their delusions of grandeur of being Drug kingpins and Mob bosses. Give them something with some substance! Create music with some feeling!

Attention Rappers: Assuming the names of Italian Mobsters like Gotti, Capone, Genovese, Gambino, etc. is not original and doesn't make you gangster.

Many rappers have sacrificed their moral and artistic integrity in order to chase the illusion known as the American Dream - Stay true to yourself! Keep it authentic!

We've allowed the Rap culture to be co-opted, diluted and prostituted. Hip Hop has become a rebel against its own existence.

We the artists, producers, song writers, DJ's, promoters and fans should be the gatekeepers of popular culture, not the corporations.

Find a cause or venture that requires you to give back: Self sacrifice and duty to your community is essential - Now That's Hip Hop!

Ask not what Hip Hop can do for you. Ask what you can do for Hip Hop. Keep the culture Alive.


Gold is molded in the Fire and Greatness is molded in the furnace of adversity.. Overcoming hardship builds great character.

If your love for money and "success" is stronger than your love for God, then you've already lost.

The Road to Victory is paved with humble submission to the Most High!

‎Remember that GOD gave us people to love and things to use, not things to love and people to Use!

If you want to feel rich, just look at all the things in your life that money can't buy.

Don’T Wait For Anyone To Affirm Your Self Worth.

‎"You are worthy because you were born. Your being alive make you worthy. You alone are enough."- Oprah

Never forget that You are God's poetry. A masterpiece!!

Pray, Fast and Meditate! Mobilize your Higher Self. Change your mental state and the frequency of your thoughts to one of hope and prosperity.

Use the power of prayer to bring you the people and circumstances which will work in concert on seen and unseen levels to manifest your dreams.

(The Seven "P" Theory) Prayer + Perseverance + Positivity + Planning + Productivity + Passion + Patience = Profits & Prosperity

Live with intention and conviction.

Pursue Excellence and success will follow!

Success is not just about the destination. It's also about the journey and the myriad of sacrifices it took to get there.

Look at things you lack as opportunities to be creative and not failures or deficiencies. Necessity is the mother of invention.

The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.

One of the best "Diets" you can go on is to consistently feed your brain with wisdom and lose the dead weight of toxic people in your life.

Innovate don't Imitate! Activate don't Hesitate! Communicate don't Instigate!

Instead of counting your days, try making your days count..

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.

"It's better to shoot and miss than to let the time run out and wonder 'what if'" - Michael Jordan

‎"It does not matter how many times you get knocked down, but it's how many times you get back up that counts." -Vince Lombardi

"Champions aren´t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision" -Muhammad Ali

You make mistakes. Mistakes don't make you. They just teach you a lesson.

Just because you've made mistakes in the past does not mean that all is lost. We can always make amends for bad choices we've made previously.

"If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain." - Dolly Parton

Without a clear purpose, life is motion without meaning and activity without direction.

A sense of purpose inflames a deep passion to overcome all obstacles in our way.

It's time to roll up your sleeves, send up a prayer, raise some capital, formulate a strategy, develop a team & execute your plan.

We all have the innate ability to achieve success. We just have to harness our greatness within. No one can define your limits but yourself.

It's amazing what you can do, when you don't have the things that you feel you need to get by - Believe in the power of your skills.

Make sacrifices for your dreams without bargaining your soul.

GOD will bring you through the "Mess", so you can come out with the "Message!"

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is who you are & your reputation is who people think you are.

"It's not what you accept but it's what you turn down that shows character" - Ice T

The "Live Fast Die Young" mentality is dangerous..Instead of focusing on living "The Good Life" just try living "A good life" with morals.

"I know it seems hard sometimes, but remember one thing, through every dark night, there's a bright day after that." - Tupac Shakur

Sometimes it seems like every time you try to do something positive, the forces of negativity seek to encompass you. Keep the faith!

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" - (Hebrews.11:1)..

"No matter how hard it gets, keep your chest out, keep your head up and handle it." - Tupac Shakur

Underdogs don't have big budgets or big co signs, but they have "heart" and a burning desire to win.

Never underestimate the heart, determination and hunger of an Underdog. One way or another, they find a way to beat the odds.

Sometimes, a man with MONEY is no match against a man on a MISSION.

Positive thoughts bring Positive Results and Negative thoughts bring Negative Results...It all begins in the mind. Change your outlook and you'll change your predicament.

Positive Energy is Contagious.

Positive people look at other people's success as INSPIRATION.

Art, whether it's music, poetry, painting or dance, is not only a form of self expression, but in a way it defines our humanity..

"Through all of the the rain and the pain, you got to keep your sense of humor. You gotta be able to smile." - Tupac Shakur

Sometimes you can loose the "battle" but win the "War." Stay focused and look at the bigger picture.

Don't give up now! Often times God gives you your blessing during a time when all seems lost.. Keep the Faith!

L.I.F.E. = Living In Faith Everyday

This is your time. Seize the moment. You are blessed and you don't even know it.

Live your life by The Real "G" Code! And That's "God's" Code. And he will erase all fear and doubt from your heart!! Let's Go!

With GOD'S "Word" as your MAP and His Spirit as your COMPASS, you're sure to stay on course...

‎"I cheated on my fears, broke up with my doubts, got engaged to my faith and now I'm marrying my dreams." - Unknown

Create your legacy. Live your legacy.

Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day.. Salute To the Gift of Life... Let's make it happen!!!

The author, Jesse Atkinson, can be reached at


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Music Marketing- Hip Hop, Pop Music and more: The Game Plan by Jesse Atkinson
The Game Plan by Jesse Atkinson
Music Marketing- Hip Hop, Pop Music and more
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